September is not just the start of the academic year for schools and universities, but also the starting month for a wide array of courses offered by numerous academies and training centres in the city.
One of this year’s big changes is the increase in the range of online training offered by academies and training centres, a trend which has been accelerated by the Covid-19 crisis. Unfortunately, this growth has been matched by an increase in queries and complaints about contracting these courses.
To understand our consumer rights here we need to bear in mind that the obligations for academies and training centres with online courses are the same as they are for courses offered on-site. The difference is that these courses are contracted remotely, and so consumers are advised to follow a series of recommendations.
General tips for contracting courses online
- Contract courses with websites you are already familiar with or which people have recommended to you. Check that the website contains the identity and contact details of the company.
- Check that the characteristics of the course, its price and material costs, as well as the payment method and means of accreditation, appear on the website.
- Check that there are no pre-checked options resulting in additional costs.
- Keep the message confirming payment and the invoice.
- Cooling-off period It’s possible to cancel the contract in the fourteen days after it is formalised or the materials received.
- If you are unsatisfied, approach the training company in the first instance. If you do not receive an answer within 30 days, or if this is not satisfactory, you can contact the Municipal Consumer Information Office (OMIC) to make a complaint.
Doubts about accreditation
One of the most common complaints handled by the OMIC relates to qualifications or accreditations offered by academies and training centres.
In this respect, it is very important to properly understand the difference between regulated and non-regulated education. Regulated education results in standardised certificates, while non-regulated centres cannot ever issue academically standardised qualifications.
It is therefore very important that publicity does not lead to any errors or false expectations among consumers. According to article 15 of Royal Decree 401/1979, of 13 February, cases considered to be illicit publicity include “educational publicity which may cause confusion over the authorisation granted or the academic validity of the teaching given”.
In cases of conflict, the contract holds sway
At the OMIC we have also detected that in the current climate of exceptional circumstances and deep uncertainty, consumers have concerns over making a commitment for long periods of time. One recurrent query actually relates to courses which combine on-site training and online training. What happens if there are new lockdowns? Would these courses continue?
It is worth noting that according to article 123-3 and 123-4 of the LCCC, consumers have the right to receive, in a reasonable time frame, a model of the contract with the general conditions set out. To avoid misunderstandings and subsequent claims, the OMIC recommends consumers read the contract carefully and if they feel there are situations which have not been contemplated or have any other doubts, to ask for them to be included.
It is therefore very important that we make sure the necessary changes are made to the contract or that we get a written response to our doubts. This is perhaps one of the most important recommendations we can make from the OMIC for any contract. So remember, the contract always holds sway.